How To Use Car Classifieds

Used car classifieds are a great way to buy or sell a car.

Buying

Buying a car from the classified ads is not as hard as it may sound. Generally, cars are arranged by year or make. Once you have decided on what year or model best suits your needs, you can scour the pages of ads looking for potentials cars.

  1. Decide on the Car: Are you looking for a 2-Door coupe, a sedan, or a SUV or mini-van? Is there a specific model that you've had your eye on, or could several models potentially satisfy your needs? What kind of gas mileage do you expect to get? Try to narrow your search to three or fewer models if you can.

  • Age of the Car: This can be a particular year, or it can be a range of years that are acceptable. If you're not the mechanical type, then look for cars that are just a few years old. Since cars tend to depreciate significantly during the first 5 years, you can get a good deal on a car that looks modern, is mechanically sound, and doesn't make your wallet too thin.

    Those who are mechanically inclined may be willing to take a little more risk by looking for cars that are older than 5 years. Although a 10 year old car may not be the latest style, you can get dependable transportation for a very reasonable price if you're willing to fix the occasional worn out part.

  • Search the Internet: Perform an Internet search to learn about problems that are common on certain vehicles so that you'll know what to look for when you examine the car. This information could be much more useful than simply walking around the car and "kicking the tires."
  • Determine the Value: Using online sites such as Edmunds.com, nadaguides.com, and kbb.com (Kelly Blue Book) can give you a good idea as to the average cost of the car you're considering buying or selling. Each site is a little bit different, so check all three to get a good idea of how much you'll have to spend.
  • Find some Cars: Scour the classified ads for a car that meets your criteria. Use a highlighter or pen to mark vehicles that show potential. Once you find a car that meets your make, model, year, and price requirements, circle it with your highlighter and keep looking. After you have gone through all of the pertinent ads, you can look back at all of the cars you've marked and compare them. An Excel spreadsheet can be a great tool for this comparison.
  • Vehicle History Report: Consider obtaining a vehicle history report and having the car checked by a mechanic you trust. At the very least, observe the area where the car you're considering purchasing is normally parked, and look for fluid stains. Oil is generally black. Antifreeze leaking from the coolant system is typically dyed green. Be careful not to assume that all stains are from that car.

  • Selling

    Selling with classified ads can save you thousands of dollars. Dealers generally offer several thousand dollars less for a trade-in than what the car is actually worth on the market. Then, they clean the car up and sell it for thousands more than they paid for it as a trade-in. Classified ads give sellers a way to cut the dealer out of the equation. Selling with classified ads will not allow you to get the full dealer or "retail value" for you car, but you can expect to get much more than your car's "trade-in value."

    Useful Abbreviations

    Classified ads use standard abbreviations to shorten the length of each ad. Here's a few that you're most likely to run across:

    Drivetrain

    • Auto or AT: Automatic transmission
    • 5sp: Manual, five speed transmission
    • Fwd: Front wheel drive
    • Rwd: Rear wheel drive
    • 4wd: Four wheel drive
    • Tilt: Tilt wheel steering

    Accessories

    • p/w: Power Windows
    • p/l: Power locks
    • loaded: has all common optional accessories, usually power locks and windows

    Body

    • 2-dr: Two door
    • 4-dr: Four door
    • 3-dr: Three door hatchback
    • G/C: Good condition
    • Mpg: miles per gallon


    Price

    • B/O: Best offer
    • OBO: Or best offer; the price is negotiable
    • Firm: The asking price is not negotiable

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